Choose Kind Even When You Want Change

image from icanread

I used to think I could change the world by force, by sheer persistence, and drilling my idea over and over.  I used to blog that way too.  If I just kept saying that my approach was correct others would finally be persuaded and realize the wrong in their ways and see the light of mine.  2 years ago a friend of mine kindly told me to stop being so harsh in the way I presented change.  While at the time I wanted to scoff at the notion, me harsh?  I am practically a teddy bear compared to some, I realized the right in his words.  We do not change the world through sheer force, although persistence helps, we choose it by starting a conversation and choosing kind above anything else.

The last post I wrote, an open letter to an event I went to, came from that perspective.  There were things that bothered me because it felt like a failure of execution, not vision, and I knew I had to write about it before the thoughts would leave me alone.  My post was not meant to spark a negative debate about awards.  My post was not meant to spark a mudslinging of fault, of tearing down of either side or people involved, and yet that happened.  While I do not regret writing the post because it certainly started a debate, I do regret people tearing each other down.

Change comes from us when we are willing.  Change comes when we feel safe in the direction we want to change.  We may change under pressure or expectations but they will  rarely be wholehearted or viewed in a permanent positive light.  We must speak out for changes we want to see, but we must not make it personal.

When I push my students to grow and change I do it with kindness and persistence.  I ask them to prove everybody wrong, I ask them to prove themselves wrong.  I ask them to grow and to learn from this journey.  So it is only fair I ask it of  everyone else as well.  Before we enter debates, choose kind.   Choose open mindedness, choose the higher road.  Choose to see both sides even if your heart lies on one of them.  ask for a debate and proceed knowing that there are people with pride involved, people who have invested in what you want to change.  People like ourselves who are only doing things because they believe in the good of them, not because they want to hurt others.  It is time we, as adults, choose kind like our students and give others the respect they deserve.  Even if we think they have the wrongest opinion of them all.

I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” will be released this fall from PLPress.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

 

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24 thoughts on “Choose Kind Even When You Want Change

  1. Your message is more than relevant to the discussion that has transpired over the past few days. I believe it’s critical to the survival of our nation. It seems that despite all of the wonderful new tools that we have to communicate with each other, and though everyone now has a voice and more words and thoughts fly between people via text, phone and video than ever before in the history of humankind, the quality of our discourse has not improved. Indeed, there is a strong case to be made that we as a people are less *in* communication, listen less deeply, have less true understanding of the views that differ from our own, and are less inclined to engage in communication that doesn’t support our feelings and beliefs. Moreover, things that we would never dare to say to another person face to face are routinely lobbed like grenades into the public square as we sit safely behind the firewall of our screens.

    I came of age as a radio talk-show host in Los Angeles during the ‘80s, along with the rise of the “shock jock.” Disc jockeys, talk-show hosts, political commentators on shows like Crossfire, the Howard Stern show and the Jerry Springer show were transforming the air waves by saying things that many people would be hesitant to think in private let alone say in public. Incivility suddenly became marketable and in vogue. And so the arms race began.
    Media personalities engaged in an all-out battle to be the most startling, shocking, offensive, “brutally frank,” in-your-face, “yea-that’s-right-I-said-it” personality on the air. Talk show producers screened call-ins and guests and searched for the most outspoken, combative people to the front of the line. So I watched as a the industry of mass communication modeled for the public the dysfunctional communication style that now dominates traditional media, new media and, at times, social media.

    As a radio talk-show host in a city like Los Angeles, people calling in, disagreeing with me, getting all up in my grill and even talking about my mother was part of the daily diet. No thin-skinned persons need apply. Disagreement is not the issue. The concern I share with you, Pernille, is the loss of civility. Indeed, thoughtful and talented people like Phil Donahue walked away from very popular talk shows because they just didn’t like the new “bare-knuckles” rules of public discourse. He walked away because neither agreeing nor agreeing to disagree was good for ratings anymore and to survive you had to become a purveyor of “heat” versus “light.” I left traditional media for the same reason.

    BAM Radio Network was created, in part, out of a desire to restore public discourse and to invite people to discuss very difficult and sensitive issues in a thoughtful and respectful way. Over the last five years we have produced and aired over 1,250 episodes with passionate educators, who possess wildly diverse positions and opinions. We’ve tackled controversial issues like tracking students, arming classroom teachers, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Gay Men in Preschool Settings,” sexual predators in school, homework, standardized testing, and charter schools — often while these subjects we starting major firefights in traditional media. However, every single discussion on BAM Radio Network is civil, thoughtful, and respectful, while still being candid and authentic.

    Candid, authentic, civil public discourse is part of our mission and we’ve worked hard to model it on the network. Why? Because we believe that it takes more than a well-educated, well-informed public for a society to be sustainable. It requires the ability for people of wildly diverse backgrounds, positions, opinions, political persuasions, faiths (or lack thereof) to be able to talk to each other, create mutual understanding and find ways to reconcile our wonderful, amazing diversity of views. So I applaud your post, Pernille. I hope those who respect your opinion will follow your lead and hope it will stir an equally passionate and engaged discussion about the need for us to model civil discourse for the next generation. I certainly will do my best to follow right behind you.

  2. I’m sorry for the negativity in the comment I left on your last post. I think the beauty of the interaction that occurred, though, is that I was able to see a new perspective, see a blogger from a different lens and experience forgiveness.

  3. Pernille, you’ve written many memorable, quotable and bookmark-able posts. This one is the best one so far. It displays humility, a condition to deeper learning. It calls for empathy, the single most important trait a human being can master. It demands that educators model the behaviors they expect of their students, which is the most important role that educators play. I can’t wait to read what you write next.

    • mark, I fear you hold me to too high of a standard. I merely blog what i think, and although I want to hold myself to this standard I know I fail on many occasions. Thank you for your belief in me.

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  5. Thank you for sharing this your thoughts in this post. I struggle with this on a daily basis in my position of an instructional technologist in a 1:1 district. I’ve been taking the same approach of sheer persistence and drilling my ideas into people’s heads to no avail. In fact, it’s almost cost me my job. I often feel discouraged and defeated that people do not have the vision that many innovative and progressive teachers do for the current state and future of education.

    I’m starting to realize that good report and mutually respecting relationships with people are more powerful than showering them with research based facts, data, evidence, information, examples of other innovative districts/teachers that shows that our current approach is not going to accomplish our goals as a 1:1 district.

    It’s so hard because I feel a major sense of urgency to transform the way we educate students because they will not get back this time in school. How long does it take to establish relationships to the point where people are willing to listen to innovative ideas? How much instructional time will get wasted as a result? Why do we have to play politics in education in order to get things done?

    I guess time will only tell, but the bottom line is that people are not willing to listen if they don’t respect you. People will not change until they are ready for change. Your advice of choosing kind is great advice, and it’s time to take that approach. I have to keep telling my self, patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue, patience.

  6. Pernille,
    Very well stated. As one who left a lengthy comment on your first post, for some reason I fast got involved in the discussion, though I hesitated with thoughts like, “What right have I? Who am I to get involved? I’m just a little known connected educator.” Yet, moved by your courage to share critical concerns about the few things that didn’t go so well in this event and what I interpreted as an initial response that sought to diminish those concerns I sensed you were voicing that many were thinking, and by feeling a need to counter my own doubts, I was moved to support your expression, even though you don’t need it. In doing so, perhaps I butted in where I don’t belong and may have added to a tone that was not the intent of sharing your concerns. I apologize for that, respecting your writing and thinking space accordingly and all those involved. Some mocked both you and others who shared critical comments of the nature of this event or some of its decisions. Others wholeheartedly support you and/or the event for all of the good we all seek to achieve. If we are to foster critical pedagogy to realize the full democratic ideals and practice we strive for our young to achieve, then we must practice it ourselves in the most civil, open, and mutually healthy and growth-fostering manner possible. Your words and approach to this discussion support this end. Thank you for sharing.

  7. There are many qualities that effective leaders share – the ability to communicate their vision and inspire others to follow are critical. As an pragmatic and optimistic educator, it’s frustrating to have “sense of urgency to transform the way we educate students” when we encounter school leaders that have not only have different priorities, philosophies, commitments, etc. but seem oblivious or resistant to change. Sometimes, it’s best to take a few deep breaths and rethink your own position. Sometimes, you have to move on. In all cases, being positive and focusing on some of the things Dale Carnegie wrote about in “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Win_Friends_and_Influence_People) will serve you well.

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